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steinVT 01-14-2018 01:19 PM

Our yet to be named, '56 Safari
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After countless hours reading blogs written by folks restoring vintage Airstreams, I think it is probably time I add our story to the collective consciousness.

My wife and I are the proud owners of a 1956 22’ Airstream Safari. I am an engineer by training but have always been sort of a motor head. When I was younger, it was old english sports cars. More recently it has been motor cycles, currently old BMW Airheads. Both in cars and bikes, I got great enjoyment of “rescuing” forgotten machines and restoring them to their former glory. I had occasionally thought it would be fun to get an Airstream and do the same. Well, now we have done it.

My wife and I have never really toured the US. Flown all over it, but not really toured. Initially I thought we should do it in a conversion van or a truck camper and was very seriously considering building a truck camper from scratch. Then I happened to look at the local Craigslist. And there she was a ’56 Safari, all of three miles from our house!

We couldn’t imagine dragging a 61 year old trailer all over the country, but it was so close, we figured we would check it out. And so it begins. My wife actually fell in love with the layout of the Safari. I loved all of the windows and the 13 panels, just so cool. The trailer was fairly complete, the skin was very good and it just had the floor replaced. The biggest things we thought it needed was to replace all of the screens, add a black and grey tank and do something about the smell. The previous owner, having a minor case of Aluminitis, owned the Safari, a 1960’s 25’ Airstream and a 1970’s Argosy. He originally bought the Safari from a seller in Kansas and had it shipped to Vermont. That was two years ago and he hadn’t yet done much to it, instead focusing on his 25 footer. Anyway, a deal was made and we towed it the 3 miles home without incident.

My wife and I hung around it for a day or two plotting our plan of attack. We found this was only possible if all of the windows were open for an hour or two before we went in. Truly we had to figure out what was going on with the smell.

I don’t have a shop as such, although I have taken over one garage bay year round and the second bay from May until November. Problem is that it is filled with 6 motorcycles and 2 side cars. In the basement I have a small wood working shop where I can work in the winter. We also have a barn good for storing non-mouse edible things such as aluminum skins.

What I plan to do with this blog is post to it as if I had started when we took possession of the trailer last September and then bring everyone up to speed as to where we are now. I know this is a huge project, but we would really like to camp in her the end of next summer or early fall.

So here are pictures as she first appeared at our house on September 25th, 2017.
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Bubba L 01-14-2018 02:14 PM

Congratulations and looking forward to tuning into your adventure. Friends of ours that camp with us acquired a 55 Safari last year. They gave me the opportunity to do some upgrades they wanted. We really like the layout and bank of windows. Good luck and have fun. Bubba

steinVT 01-14-2018 02:46 PM

Airstream Archeology
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One of the fun activities when buying an old Airstream is figuring out what modifications previous owners have made over the years and just what they were thinking. Being new to Airstreams, it also was an excuse for lots of time on the web trying to figure out what the original really looked like.

We found three major changes:

First, a very large vent was added above the refrigerator. What I believe is the trailer was delivered as a Park model which only would have 115v for cooling. When propane was added later, this big hood was added. A couple of things tipped me off it wasn’t original; half the window was covered by the duct work, half of the upper cabinet was lost to ducting and the vent to the roof was very rough cut with exposed fiberglass.
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The second mod was to the dinette. One of the benches had the back hacked off and the cushions modified to fill the gap. I suppose it opens up the space more, but makes for lots of little cushions if you wanted to turn it into a bed.
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The last modification is the curb side bed was made so that it could go from full size to 6" narrower. The bed frame was moved toward the curb and dropped two inches. Then movable legs were added to the bed platform. I am guessing the idea was to make it into a kind of couch, narrower and lower than the bed with the ability to transform it back into a bed. The transition from the lowered portion to the normal height would tend to be very uncomfortable as the two inch rise was about where your shoulder would be. And there also was a bunch of cushions needed to come together for the bed. I don't think I could get my wife Lynne to sleep on that side.
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steinVT 01-14-2018 03:07 PM

Let the Disassembly Begin
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Disassembly began in earnest on September 28th.
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And looked like this by October 2nd.
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Here is when we started to discover the hidden secrets of the “New” floor. The previous owner had the floor replaced before he took delivery. Turns out it was only most of the floor. They kind of forgot about under the bathroom, arguably the most likely place for rot. And it was rotten.
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Turns out they forgot a couple of other things as well. Like removing the mouse infested insulation under the floor. I just can’t imagine ripping out the original floor, seeing and smelling that mess and not cleaning it out. Even if it was just to make your life easier putting it back in. The previous owner even asked for pictures with the floor up, but somehow they were never delivered.
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And they forgot to set the circular saw high enough not to put large gashes in the frame rails.
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And to make the floor extend all the way under the U-channel. Notice it is only ½” to ¼” under the channel. In some spots it didn’t even reach the channel. Glad I didn’t pay for it.
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So here is what she looked like by October 6th, just nine days after we started.
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We also found something I didn't expect, slight buckling in the front frame rails. There will be many posts about these next spring when I fix them.
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Moral of the story, trust but verify or just do it yourself.

steinVT 01-14-2018 03:42 PM

The Rush Before Winter
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Our initial plans were to weatherize her as much as possible before it turned cold, which can happen early where we live in northern Vermont. But this year was different as it was warm a couple of weeks into November and we got a bunch done.

For the past two years, the Safari was stored outside covered with a large tarp. Since we had turned it into a big aluminum tube, leaks don’t much matter. So we stopped on the shell and spent our time stripping the finish off of doors and furniture, stuff that had to be done outside. I figured we would have the winter to work in the basement.

We ended up getting a lot further along than we thought. I did most of the stripping and my wife Lynne was a real trooper putting 2 coats of amber shellac and 3 coats of poly on everything. Sound familiar Shari? We spent many hours pouring over your "Birdie" blog.

Here is where we are now on January 14th, 2018.

The first piece I rebuilt was the night table/dresser. I had to replace the top and both sides.
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Here’s Lynne hard at work
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All of the doors, drawers, the closet and the bathroom were stripped and refinished. Here are the closet panels.
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The upper kitchen cabinet needed to be completely fabricated with new wood to undo the modifications made for the vent install.
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For the furniture, I ended up using most of the panels as templates and just re-skinned the frames. Here are most of the pieces positioned together. Kind of ran out of room in the basement.
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The only piece of furniture we didn’t get refinished before the cold set in was the closet. It needed a lot of work as it was partially destroyed when it was removed during the earlier floor replacement. Next warm day...
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InsideOut 01-14-2018 03:57 PM

Congratulations! Welcome to the vintage front kitchen club! Hope you get as much enjoyment from yours as we have ours! I think your#O-6305 is a bit earlier than ours (#O-6421), but who knows, they may have been in the factory at the same time...

Good luck with your restoration. Having "been there, done that" on ours, let me know if we can be of any support or encouragement. It's a big job, but very rewarding when it's done!

Shari :flowers:

Cochese 01-14-2018 04:02 PM

Cabinets look great!

dbj216 01-14-2018 06:42 PM

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Hello from another vintage Airstreamer in Colorado. I have not done the level of renovations that you are doing, but I have done extensive work on four different vintage Airstreams. I had a 66 Trade Wind (photo below), my son has a 69 Globetrotter, I now have a 75 Overlander, and my wife has her 86 Limited. I enjoy the vintage Airstream hobby; maybe a bit excessively.

Like you, I have enjoyed the sports car hobby for many, many years; from the Healey 3000 in college to the S2000 I recently sold. I enjoy motorsports, but the only motorcycle was a '74 Norton Commando 850. I now enjoy ATV riding here in the Colorado mountains.

There is an old 50s Safari sitting in a yard not 15 miles from me. Someday I may get the urge to make an inquiry.

I'm going to tag along in your renovation thread and make peanut gallery comments now and then. You have found a very nice vintage Airstream, and it will be sooo much nicer when you venture out on your first trip in it.


goransons 01-14-2018 06:59 PM

Love the front kitchen! The cabinets are looking amazing! Great work!

steinVT 01-14-2018 08:33 PM

All, thanks for the kind words.

Bubba, thanks for encouraging me to do this.

Shari, after looking at your finished trailer, we made the decision to buy this one. You set a very high bar.

David, like minds think a like. I also had a 100-6 Austin Healey and have restored a couple of Norton's, an '70 and a '74. But I really don't know if I will end up with more than one Airstream. We will see what happens when this one winds down. Going to be a while.


RankAm 01-15-2018 07:21 AM

Welcome to the Airstream restoration/renovation world! Your engineering background will serve you well with your Safari project.

I am renovating a 1956 Flying Cloud, and it has gone very slowly, but it has been a very interesting process for me. I started with almost no background for the tasks required, but I have learned a lot!

My thread (in my signature line) shows what I have done (through early summer 2017). I did no posting in late 2017, and I have some catching up to do in my thread (which I hope to do that in the next several weeks).

Good luck. I think you have a great size and great vintage trailer.


Melody Ranch 01-15-2018 09:24 AM

You have a GEM!
The front Galley Safari is a perfect layout floor plan...basically. Look at Sherrys' coverage for an in depth rebuild. My rebuild, much less comprehensive....Red Barn Safari...might give you some ideas. Here a a couple pics from mine. Note...I travel alone, therefore I feel that space taken up by beds is a waste. I have replaced the beds in mine with a living area....couch is perfect as a single bed, and it will pull out for a double. Oops...can't upload pics...but, you can see them in Red Barn Safari.

dbj216 01-15-2018 07:08 PM

I think Melody Ranch is a mid fifties Airstream expert. He has built some beautiful pieces of history.

You have probably seen this, but if not, I thought I'd post the link. It is a 56 Safari for sale in Oregon. Maybe it's your next trailer? Oregon isn't too far from you, is it? It has a rather interesting write up about the history of this model.


bibbs 01-15-2018 08:58 PM

Great fun, looks good so far, keep us posted.

steinVT 01-16-2018 07:18 PM

You are creating a how to manual in Vintage Trailer repair, which is what I think you started out to do. Reading through it I answered at least a half a dozen questions. I will be going down many of the same paths.

Melody Ranch,
Your safari came out beautiful. Quite a pleasant change from the modern white on white to the more subdued wood and burgundy. I hope ours turns out half as nice.

Thanks for the link, but it is a little far, like 2950 miles far. Besides I am way out that market for now. I have longed suffered from MBS (Multiple Bike Syndrome) and trying not to catch MTS!


InsideOut 01-18-2018 06:58 PM


Originally Posted by dbj216 (Post 2055733)
There is an old 50s Safari sitting in a yard not 15 miles from me. Someday I may get the urge to make an inquiry.

Hope it's not mine David! If so, it's not for sale! :lol:

Shari :winkiss:

dbj216 01-19-2018 07:00 PM

He Shari: I don't know who owns it, but I'm positive is isn't your beauty.

But a person has to keep their eyes open for possibilities for future projects....right?


steinVT 01-20-2018 07:15 PM

Did Someone Call a Furnace Repair Man?
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Since most of the furniture is done and its too cold to do anything outside, I decided to get started on appliance evaluation/refurb. I would like to use the original stove, refrigerator and furnace, if they are safe and reliable. The original water heater was 115v and is gone so that will be replaced with new propane. I also am thinking about adding a small under bed air conditioner for those hot days of summer.

The “Day and Night” furnace is such a simple thing, I love the color and I like the thought of no electricity. I’ll have to try to find that color again when I repaint.
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First I took it all apart, cleaned the pieces and then spayed it with silver high temperature engine paint.
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Here is the burner. I will attempt to fire it up on the bench when I figure out how to connect it to a propane bottle. Not sure where the large bulb on the small copper tube goes, it was just loose under the burner. I am guessing it is some sort of thermostat controller that goes behind the radiant shield.
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goransons 01-21-2018 03:41 PM

Does your furnace have a fresh air intake up through the floor or does it burn air from inside the trailer? I have a similar heater for our 55 but wasn't sure if it had a vent hole or not.

steinVT 01-21-2018 07:04 PM

Scott, not sure I can definitively answer that. The floor was replaced, rather poorly, just before I got it and there were no holes. There were however some strange things in the belly pan under the furnace. It looked like someone went crazy with an 1/8" drill inside of a 3" circle. Maybe that was to provide venting?

Looking at the base plate of the furnace, there is a 1" hole, guessing that would be for the gas line and a 3" hole directly in the center. I bet that was to match with the perforations in the pan.

I image the reason for a floor vent would be to assure that there would be no possibility that the flue could back draft. The design of the furnace would make it tough to separate the combustion air from the trailer air. I like the idea of a vent, but I don't like more potential mouse entry points. Maybe I will attach a 3" vent hose to the belly pan and up to the floor. That way I can insulate the rest of that bay around the vent.


goransons 01-21-2018 07:25 PM

Good to know. I suspected something must have been there. I was thinking of making an aluminum sleeve down to the belly pan, screen top and bottom to keep air moving but critters out. Mine's a Panel Ray but I haven't looked at the data plate to confirm which model it is.

steinVT 01-21-2018 07:54 PM

Did Someone Call a Furnace Repair Man? Nope...
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I grabbed a pressure regulator off of an old gas grill and using some fittings that came off of the trailer, I managed to put gas to the burner. Tried to light it and nothing. Bummer.

After unsuccessfully trying to find a replacement pilot/burner valve on Amazon, I decided to try a little debugging. I loosened up the pipe feeding the pilot light and sprayed it with soap solution. Bubbles, so the pilot jet must be clogged. I took it apart and filled the jet with carburetor cleaner. After some light probing with small pin, the cleaner emptied out and I knew I was good.

Put it back together and success!
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dbj216 01-22-2018 07:54 PM

Very good diagnostic skills. The kind you need with these old trailers.


57Vintage 01-22-2018 10:45 PM

Furnace Fresh Air
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Mark, Scott:

I would expect the floor has a screened opening similar to my 58, which has a panel ray unit. I've outlined the furnace cabinet area in green and the inlet in red. The screen was so clogged with dirt it's hard to make out. I don't recall how the belly pan was done. I failed to take photos of it before removing.

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StevieB 01-23-2018 05:44 AM

Welcome to the Vintage World
Very Very Very Nice. We sold our Safari back in about the same time frame as you purchased this one. It was a 54 and we made a number of modifications to take it back to the original looking state, along with adding some modern convinces. Should you have any questions, you can Private Message me, I will be glad to share a few ideas.

Additionally, there are two Facebook Pages that are on a closed group, which you could join based on owning a 56 Safari that are filled with great ideas and other willing owners who are glad to share their knowledge.
1. Airstream the Early Years
2. 13 Panel Airstream Safari Group

Finally, a very good friend of mine is currently restoring a 54 Flying Cloud, you may want to follow his blog on Airforums. "A Cloud Named Spoon"

I have had a number of Vintage Trailers and Vintage Airstreams. I am hooked and really enjoy the hobby and the life. Welcome to the Vintage World.


steinVT 01-23-2018 06:00 AM

Furnace Inlet
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Harold, that would line up perfectly with the 3" hole in the base plate. I like Scott's idea of using a tubular duct air to bring air from the pan. Maybe a short piece of SS flex. Then I could put screens on both ends.


I believe the large tube on the left side of the picture below is some sort of temperature sensor. It is attached to about 10" of capillary tube.

Is it used for measuring incoming air temp and throttling back the burner when it has warmed up or is it a safety device to keep the furnace from over heating?

When I found it, it was under the control valve. Seems like you would be measuring the temp of the outside air.

It might be possible to move it away from the incoming air to try to measure cabin temp. If it is to prevent overheat, maybe it should go behind the reflector.

What do you guys think?


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57Vintage 01-23-2018 08:21 AM

I don't have a photo to answer your question. I have traded some furnace parts to Scott and Prairieschooner, I'll dig around in the shop and see if I have an answer for you.

dbj216 01-23-2018 06:12 PM

Seems to me all gas valves have to know when to turn off the gas, as well as knowing when to turn it on again. I think you are right be describing the capillary as a gas valve control of some type.

I think of it like a water heater thermocouple that senses the pilot light it lit, so the gas valve is allow to turn on, if the thermostat says the water is cold. Very old water heaters required a guy to press the pilot light button for a good 15 seconds until the capillary fluid expanded and allowed the gas valve to function.

Nothing worse than a malfunctioning gas valve that allows raw gas into the room. Big bang hypothesis?

Maybe someone has an old 56 Safari Airstream owner's manual that would give some clues.

Someone will chime in with the answer.


steinVT 01-23-2018 08:10 PM

Hi David, that is exactly how this one works. There is a smaller bulb and capillary tube that is directly in the pilot flame. And indeed, you need to light the pilot and hold it for some amount of time before will stay lit. Just don't know if the big one is for air temp control or furnace overheat protection. Guess I could just light it and hit it with a heat gun and see what temperature shuts it down.

Harold, thanks for looking in your shop.

StevieB, I have already joined the 13 panel Facebook group and now will read the Flying Spoon blog. Thanks for the tip.


safari62 01-23-2018 09:22 PM

Looking good
Very nice model trailer. Looks to be in great shape. You have some excellent advice via inside/out and MELODY threads. Glad you found were the smell was coming from! PO did a great floor repair, right?
We have a 57’ Custom waiting for restoration. Needs frame off and everything else.
I may have a manual for that furnace, we have the same one. I will dig around.

HiHoAgRV 01-24-2018 04:43 PM


Originally Posted by goransons (Post 2058095)
Does your furnace have a fresh air intake up through the floor or does it burn air from inside the trailer? I have a similar heater for our 55 but wasn't sure if it had a vent hole or not.

I rebuilt a '55 and it used interior air for combustion and had a roof vent for exhaust gas.

steinVT 01-28-2018 07:19 PM

Furnace bulb
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I finally got some time to experiment with the furnace burner. I fired it up on the bench and then warmed up the bulb with an electric heat gun. Sure enough the burner cycled off. I was concerned that maybe it was an over temperature safety shut off, but it wasn't all that hot. Once it cooled back off, the burning came back on.
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Looks like the 62 year old furnace works fine. :)

goransons 01-28-2018 07:37 PM

Congrats! I need to do that very soon once I get the bathroom back together. That's a great idea! Thank you for sharing!

dbj216 01-28-2018 07:46 PM

Very nice: A great feeling that your curiosity and ingenuity resulted in a solution. Now you have a functioning gas valve for your old heater. It will feel good on a cold, damp night.


steinVT 02-07-2018 08:43 PM

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Rather than tackle the tough design decisions like where and how to install black and grey tanks, I thought I might spend a little time cleaning up the lights that came with the trailer.

The bath room fixture and the gas fixture cleaned up nicely. The others I decieded to paint with a brownish hammered look paint that should go well with the zolotone. I replaced the wiring as well. I would love to have all of these little projects done by next spring. All of these will be 12v with screw in LED blubs.

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We also have two ring flouresent lights. These worked when I picked up the trailer. When I disassembled one to clean it up, I found that the old electrical tape used to insulate the wires had totally fallen off. Both the hot and the neutral where within a half an inch of each other and the metal fixture. Not good with 115v. Glad I took them apart and glad I pulled off the inner walls so I can replace it all.

safari62 02-08-2018 11:26 AM

Follow up
Nice lights. They look similar to the style in our 57’. On the subject of wiring, I did find some scary stuff inside the walls on the Custom. Worn casings were grommets should have been and damage from animals crewing. Oh, also a very large snake skin in a very small section of curbside wall.
Our 57’ needs a frame off restoration so interior had to come out, but you may want to explore the lowest sections and access the situation. I have been finding the lower panel has more damage, and insulation problems from creatures and leaks.
That said, the leaks are coming from above so...hints of were the floor was replaced/repaired before will point to those areas in need of waterproofing.

I just installed two grey tanks and a black tank in a 63’ Overlander. It is a project for sure. I think the 57’ will be getting only one 16 gallon gray tank which will/should be so much simpler.
Still have not found furnace manual but it looks like you have ignition!

dbj216 02-08-2018 06:16 PM

Good job on the light fixtures. "Restoring" these old parts is all part of the project and takes considerable time to do well. I've taken my light fixtures down, but have not cleaned them up yet. They are not as delicate as your appears.

It's going to be a great Safari, nickname TBD.


goransons 02-08-2018 07:21 PM

Looking good! There is nothing wrong at all with working on different aspects of the project. For me it keeps me motivated. The dirty nasty stuff isn't very rewarding, but working on hardware, lighting, woodwork, windows, and all that helps break up the dirty work. Keep up the good work!

steinVT 02-11-2018 06:05 PM

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Among other things, I have been working on our Refrigerator. It can be used on 115v or propane and obviously hasn't worked for many years. The insulation on the wiring was completely shot and the propane igniter parts very rusty. But I could hear the ammonia sloshing around and most of the parts seemed to be there. They are really very cool in their simplicity.

Here are a couple of before and afters:

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In this case the before looks better than the after. I have prepped it for paint which I won't spray until the spring. I am thinking to paint it Dover White (like an old BMW motorcycle). I love the '50's look.

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There was a lot of surface rust on the back and the bottom. I just cleaned them up and carefully brushed them with enamel.

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The burner fell apart into two pieces when I took it apart. On closer examination, I believe it was actually three pieces, that may have just been held together with pressure from the mounting flange. I dressed both surfaces with sandpaper on a steel plate before reassembly. I don't want to connect the propane until it is safely in the garage, so it also goes on hold until spring.

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The ignition circuit was kind of a mess. It uses what looks to be an flashlight bulb without the glass as the igniter. It is hidden behind the slotted cover in the photo below. When the knob is turned, that tube is pushed into the combustion chamber and makes contact with an exposed blade completing the circuit between the D cells and the flash light bulb. We will see if it lights next spring, but for now at least I could see it glow in the chamber.
Attachment 304087

I also disassembled, cleaned and checked the wiring on the 115v heater. Looked to be OK so I plugged it in to see what would happen. No smoke and it seemed to be working. I let it run for an hour and things in the back got hot and inside seemed to be getting cold. The door is off waiting for a gasket, but the coils seemed to be about 10 degrees cooler than ambient.

Anyone know how long these would take to cool down under 115v power?

goransons 02-11-2018 06:37 PM

Granted it was 40 degrees outside, but with the door closed I got it down very cold inside on the lowest setting in about 4 hours on electric and the outside piping was nice and hot.

I'd love some more pictures of your ignition setup, mine's missing some pieces I think.

steinVT 02-18-2018 10:28 AM

Fluorescent Light Replacement
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Tipped off on a source for ring style LED replacements in Scott's thread, I decided to finish up my with the lights. I started by sanding and then painting them with the same hammered rustoleum paint. The LED's look great and put out a nice light, I think even softer than the old fluorescent's.

So now all of my lighting will be 12v. I also picked up a couple of the LED's with a standard household base for the bath and kitchen lights. They also put out a nice light. All where purchased from M4products.
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Scott, there isn't much to see with the ignitor circuit. The tube in the pictures above (posted on 2/11) is one leg of the circuit and the disk on the end (which is isolated from the tube) is the other. When the bell crank pushes the tube into the combustion chamber, the disk contacts a stationary contact to complete the circuit. From the batteries, one wire goes to the tab on the tube and the other to the contact mounted on the refrigerator frame. I still haven't tried to ignite the propane yet, but I can see the filament glowing.

I'll try to snap some pictures next time I turn her over.

steinVT 02-24-2018 09:34 AM

Krefft Refrigerator
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Spent a little more time with the Krefft this morning replacing the 115v wiring. I used some high temp silicone based wire I got on Amazon. When I look at the before pictures, I am glad that I didn't just plug it in to see if it worked. There would have been sparks.

Attachment 304850

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dbj216 02-24-2018 06:21 PM

Nicely done. The old wiring was old and brittle like me. Yes, it could be some excitement if you had energized it.


steinVT 03-02-2018 07:55 PM

Black Tank Pedestal
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Thanks David. I think with these old trailers, its best not to assume anything.

So I thought I might show you guys what I have been working on. Spent a lot of time thinking about it and then just decided to go for it.

Our Safari was a park model, meaning no black or grey tanks. My plan is to do all the tanks above the floor. I am doing this for a couple of reasons: First, I want to keep all of the waste piping inside the belly pan. Since it is a front corner bath, that makes it tough to get around the main frame rails for mid-frame tanks. Second I like the idea of keeping the tanks somewhere warm should we start pushing the season.

I decided to do an above floor under toilet black tank and started looking for something to fit. VTS has a nice pie shaped tank that looked like it would be perfect until I measured the pan. It would cover up the shower drain and leave about a foot of flat floor. It's a tiny bathroom. What I did instead was buy the generic rectangular black tank that was only 18" wide instead of 27". The problem was corner of the tank needed to come off so it would fit tight against the wall. It was with some trepidation that I took the saws-all to my new tank. Took about 5 inches off of the corner. What made it OK was the tank was made of black ABS which is easy to chemically weld. I had some other ABS sheet from another project that I built a replacement wall by heating it to bend the edges over. This helped lock it in place and gave the ABS slurry plenty of surface to bond to. I build up a nice radius to the original wall all around the new piece. I would say it is probably stronger than the original construction.

To support my new tank I found some aluminum extrusions left over from another project. We may never use the shower, but I want it to be completely functional. My idea was to build the frame out of aluminum and then set it into the stainless steel shower pan. That way it shouldn't be bothered by a little water. I will then cover the plywood as well as the sides of the pedestal with sheet aluminum after I install it.

Here is the stand:
Attachment 305326

With the modifed black tank:

Attachment 305327

And finally with a piece of plywood and the new short toilet.

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Can anyone think why this is a bad idea?

dbj216 03-03-2018 06:19 PM

3 Attachment(s)
There are a lot of vintage Airstreams out there with above floor black tanks. The problem I had with the son's Globetrotter was the bottom discharge connection, especially at the rear of the trailer where ground clearance goes to zero as you pull up a entryway to a fuel station or campground. Maybe you're going to install a gray water tank "while you're at it". Figuring out a drain manifold for these tanks is a challenge. Study some threads and steal ideas shamelessly.

My son's above floor black tank, then fiberglass console, then toilet flange support wood, then the 13" high low profile Thetford toilet left the seat height some 20" off the floor. That was the best I could do with what I had.

You have built a very robust tank with toilet frame. I don't know the heights but I'll bet they are good. You probably accomodated the black tank vent pipe too. The 69 ran up along side of the wall, not the greatest.

I like the way you displayed the new toilet on the pedestal. You are making a "throne" out of the whole assembly.


steinVT 03-04-2018 05:13 AM

1 Attachment(s)
My plan, like your sons, is to go straight down. The advantage I have is the pipe will exit about half way between the axle and the hitch ball. The original steel pipe that exited hung maybe 6" below the pan.

This is the pipe assembly I plan on using.

Attachment 305513

It appears the bottom of the frame rail is about even with the center line of the Y tube entrance. I would flex the belly pan to enclose this completely. Then the bayonet connection would be the only thing hanging down. Not quite sure how to make the valves accessible. I am imagining some sort of door in the belly pan.

Regarding the grey tanks, I am thinking of adding two. One under the kitchen sink for the sink and another under the dinette bench to support the bath sink and shower. I would install a maceration pump to evacuate the shower. The kitchen would drain by gravity thru a valve into the black tank and be used to flush the black tank. The bench tank would drain thru the Y connection in the pan to flush the hose. The black tank vent would follow the same path as the original to exit thru the roof.

66Overlander 03-04-2018 08:51 AM


Originally Posted by steinVT (Post 2072901)
Not quite sure how to make the valves accessible. I am imagining some sort of door in the belly pan.

Opening a door in the belly pan to access the valves will be awkward. Even more so will be closing it after some liquid drips on the ground after hose disconnection.

Another option is to get extension rods for the valve handles so that the handles can be located outside the belly wrap curves.

dbj216 03-04-2018 07:25 PM

2 Attachment(s)
Joe and I are thinking the same way. My 86 has valve extension handles, and the son's 69 has them too. You might be able to run the extension handle through the side wrap aluminum of the trailer, below the subfloor.

If you put your cheater glasses on you might be able to see the dump valve handle on its extension exiting the banana wrap toward the rear bumper in the photo below. Not handy, but that's the way Airstream did it on this trailer.


steinVT 03-06-2018 08:09 PM

You guys are absolutely right. I don't think I would want to be laying down looking up to move a valve. But I also think I don't want the handles too exposed. Too much of an attractive nuisance. I like the way they were tucked behind the rear bumper on your installation David, but mine are on the street side front corner.

Maybe if there was a way to remove the handle or attach/detach it within the pan. Solenoids or worm screws could do it, but I prefer simple.

I think I'll have to sleep on this one.

HiHoAgRV 03-07-2018 12:13 PM

I saw some dump valves with flex cables, would that work?

steinVT 03-08-2018 04:45 AM

I hadn't seen those before. That would work. I could feed them to a locking box on the A frame.

Wonder how well they work to close? Think a access door would probably be a good back up. Thanks for the tip.

57Vintage 03-08-2018 08:36 AM

Valterra Valve Cables
1 Attachment(s)
I used the cables for some of my valves, but you have to be careful with routing the cable and the radius of the bend.

Attachment 305920

You can download the cable manual at:

steinVT 04-21-2018 05:27 AM

6 Attachment(s)
Been a while since I posted. My efforts have been in planning and buying as it's still 33 degrees here with snow on the ground. I did get the Safari moved into the driveway before the ground turned into mud so I am ready to go.

One of the things I have been struggling with is placement of the grey tank(s). The front kitchen and front bath make placement into the frame difficult as I want to have nothing below the pan. Not wanting to pay for custom tanks, I have decided to go with two tanks, one 10 gal and one 13 gal that will be above the floor. Less to worry about in cold weather boon docking as well.

The first will be under the forward dinette seat. It will be a direct shot for the bathroom sink, but will require a pump for the shower. I don't anticipate using the shower much, but will definitely want it functional. The first photo shows the placement of the tank and the second is an image of the "sump" pump I am talking about. The tank is 10 gallons with 4 fittings, 2 -1/2" and 2- 1 1/2" and was $56 delivered. Quality looks great. The sump is about $50 as well.
Attachment 309164
Attachment 309165

The second will be tucked in a corner under the kitchen sink cabinet. As far as I can tell it would be mainly wasted space as it's tough to get to. This will be 13 gallons and costs about $50.
Attachment 309170

I also decided on a water heater, an Excel tank-less 1.6 gal/minute. It also will be positioned under the sink and utilize my refrigerator venting scheme.
Attachment 309167

Other little projects include patching a pin hole in the bathroom sink. Got to love ABS plastic. This will be painted when it warms up. Also prepped the furnace cover for paint. I like the green color, very '50's, but it almost looks like it was delivered in kind of a pinkish tan color. Think I will try and stick with the green.
Attachment 309169
Attachment 309168

I plan on building a pair of gantries to lift the shell and picked up a pair of chain hoists. I wanted something easier to use than ropes or a come along. Amazing price and they look very good. Hope to start construction next week.

My biggest purchase thus far is I have ordered a new torsion axle from Colin Hyde to replace the leaf springs. With the new axle, brakes and bearings, it should have the reliability of a new trailer.

Bubba L 04-21-2018 07:11 AM

You’re making great progress. It sure makes it convenient living so close to Vintage Trailer Supply and Colin. Lifting the shell is going to be a milestone. Hope you find the “hidden” rivets that seem to hide when you’re ready for lift off. I found out the importance of paying special attention to stabilizing the door frame before lifting. This morning I have to meet some friends with a 55 Safari and work on their H-20 door lock. I sure like the layout. Good luck on your lift. Bubba

steinVT 04-21-2018 11:03 AM

Thanks Bubba, just wondering how you stabilized the door. I was thinking about a screwing a piece of plywood across the lower foot or so. I was also thinking about a couple of 2x4 cross members going across the trailer to keep the whole thing from racking.

I just got the trim strip off of the front and rear. What a PIA. Rusty straight headed screws. Finally thouight to use the hammer drill with a screw driver bit and that got most of them out. Only had to dremil out about five.

What does everyone use to put the rails back on? SS screws? Why not just buck them on as well?


Bubba L 04-21-2018 02:24 PM

Mark, a piece of plywood across the door would be good. Anything to keep it stable. I used 2x6 boards on edge across the lower edge of the ribs. Once I lifted the shell, I lowered it back down on cheap Harbor Freight dollies. The 2x6 boards were strong enough resting on the dollies where I could roll the shell around when needed. I also took existing dimensions of all the rib spacing before removing the shell. As far as the bottom trim or belt line, some use SS machine screws, some rivet, and some buck. I haven’t replaced mine yet, but may consider rivnuts and 8/32 SS screws so it can be removed if needed. Good luck on the rivet removal. Bubba

HiHoAgRV 04-21-2018 06:34 PM

Another suggestion. After lifting the shell, measure the perimeter all the way around the C channel. If you have bad plywood corners (like 99% of the old trailers) this measurement will give you a target when it's time to reassemble stuff. If the measurements are the same on your rebuilt floor/bellypan then the shell will drop into place.

dbj216 04-21-2018 08:36 PM

I like the idea of a torsion axle under your 56 Safari. It will be more reliable and offer independent suspension between the two wheels.

I hate slotted head screws. There ought to be a law against them.

You're getting ready for lift off. That will be an exciting day and maybe rather depressing when you see how much of the frame will need repair. HiHoSilver makes a good point on making templates of your corners before lifting off so you can duplicate them exactly.


goransons 04-21-2018 08:42 PM

You're making great progress! Did your original axle have electric brakes? If so I'd be interested in your brakes and drums off the old axle. I have one electric, one was just the hydraulic parking brake. I'd like to run both with electric brakes. I have enough extra NOS springs etc, but I need the rest of the hardware so I can reline shoes and get it back together.

steinVT 04-22-2018 05:21 AM

Great suggestions all. When I got the trailer it had just had the floor replaced, everywhere except under the bath by a semi-professional. I say semi, because although that is what they did for a living, it was a hack job. Who would pull up the floor and not replace the mouse infested nasty insulation they found underneath? Anyway I marked the inside of the C channel on the floor all the way around even though in places it only went under 1/4", so I should have a good template except for the bath corner. I will just add 1.5" to my marked line.

Since the floor is completely removed, I have a pretty good idea what needs to be done. The frame is buckled slightly between the axle and ball which will require a couple of replacement box sections. The road side rear bumper support is rusted through and will need replacement. One out rigger will need replacement. All of the frame cuts the semi-professional inflicted to remove the original floor will need to be welded. And the front and rear cross members will need to be replaced. Whew.

Scott, both brakes were electric and what ever you want is yours, just cover the shipping.

steinVT 05-13-2018 05:38 AM

Wiring supplies
1 Attachment(s)
While waiting to the weather to change, I have been busy buying parts. I think I should have most everything needed to complete the rewiring.

I bought a Progressive Dynamics Inteli-power converter, 14 gauge duplex wire for the 12 volt house wiring, 16 gauge for the trailer outside lighting and 14 gauge triplex wire for the 115 volt. The 115 volt is marine stranded instead of the solid house style.

I also bought a good selection of heat shrink marine crimped connectors. I always thought solder was the preferred choice and have done that on many motorcycles. Apparently on connections subject to vibration, the crimped is the best. We'll see.

I decided to add automotive style waterproof duplex plug connectors to all of the lights, both inside and out. I never have liked having to cut wires to remove a fixture and they are less than a buck each.
Attachment 310861

steinVT 05-13-2018 05:57 AM

Heavy Lifting
4 Attachment(s)
Spring may finally be here in Vermont so it's time to move outside.

Trying to use wood that I already had, I have constructed the gantry's to lift the shell off the frame. The wood came from a deck I deconstructed and from some horse stalls I had removed from my barn. If you look closely you may see some corners have been chewed off.
Attachment 310862
Attachment 310863

I have a 12 foot 2x8" that will do the lifting through the two vents using a pair of chain hoists.

I added a couple of 2x3" cross members at the transition rib between the end caps and middle section. Also bolted a stabilizing board across the door.
Attachment 310865
Attachment 310864

Today I plan to put up the hoists and drill out the 280 (or so) rivets.

Can anyone think of anything I am forgetting?


dbj216 05-13-2018 05:26 PM

Ah, the Airstream gallows has been constructed. Soon another Airstream hanging in full view of the public.

I think you forgot the 281st rivet. Most folks have to stop the lift as one corner seems still stuck to the frame.

The body of your old Safari looks in quite good condition. It's going to be very nice when done.

Be sure to secure your Safari body (shell) so it is safe if a thunderstorm with wind howls through.

Work safe...


goransons 05-13-2018 10:20 PM

Wow you are making quick progress! It's amazing how little wind it takes to send a shell tumbling. Make sure it's really really well tied down, I rebuilt a 60's tradewind that tumbled down a guy's street. It ended up taking almost all new bows and more than half the skins replaced.

Keep up the good work!

As mentioned by others, don't be surprised if there is a hidden rivet somewhere you haven't found yet.

safari62 05-14-2018 09:22 PM

Blind vs buck for rub rail

Originally Posted by steinVT (Post 2092082)
Thanks Bubba, just wondering how you stabilized the door. I was thinking about a screwing a piece of plywood across the lower foot or so. I was also thinking about a couple of 2x4 cross members going across the trailer to keep the whole thing from racking.

I just got the trim strip off of the front and rear. What a PIA. Rusty straight headed screws. Finally thouight to use the hammer drill with a screw driver bit and that got most of them out. Only had to dremil out about five.

What does everyone use to put the rails back on? SS screws? Why not just buck them on as well?


I like using 3/16 aluminum rivets placed in center recessed strip and counter sink surface to allow for clearance of rivet head.
Buck rivets will work, but there can be rivet length issues and even with counter sink on rail, rivet gun tip can make contact with rail.
I also chose location of rivets to best press rail against body and to avoid existing body rivets and frame location. Add Vulcan to holes also.
SS screws can strip and loosen or so I’ve found.

Hope this helps.

safari62 05-14-2018 09:28 PM

Blind vs buck for rub rail

Originally Posted by steinVT (Post 2092082)
Thanks Bubba, just wondering how you stabilized the door. I was thinking about a screwing a piece of plywood across the lower foot or so. I was also thinking about a couple of 2x4 cross members going across the trailer to keep the whole thing from racking.

I just got the trim strip off of the front and rear. What a PIA. Rusty straight headed screws. Finally thouight to use the hammer drill with a screw driver bit and that got most of them out. Only had to dremil out about five.

What does everyone use to put the rails back on? SS screws? Why not just buck them on as well?


I like using 3/16 aluminum Blind rivets placed in center recessed strip and counter sink surface to allow for clearance of rivet head.
Buck rivets will work, but there can be rivet length issues and even with counter sink on rail, rivet gun tip can make contact with rail.
I also chose location of rivets to best press rail against body and to avoid existing body rivets and frame location.
Hope this helps.

steinVT 05-15-2018 04:02 AM

Rub Rail Rivets
Safaria62, I like that idea. Just a few more to drill should it have to come off in the future. One thing I didn't understand, did you use a 45 degree counter sink and then install flush rivets or do a partial counter bore to bury the dome rivets some?

Thanks, Mark

steinVT 05-17-2018 05:27 AM

We Have Lift Off
4 Attachment(s)
Beautiful spring day with no wind, perfect to separate shell from frame.

Overall went well. The home built gantry worked well and only a little drama. I spent a lot of time trying to find all of those "hidden" rivets, only to realize that's why they are called hidden. I missed whole families of them. Internal connections between ribs and the C channel and a bunch securing what looks to be a replacement panel on the front curbside corner.
Attachment 311195

Some of the outriggers are a little nasty.
Attachment 311196

I new there was frame buckling up front, what I didn't know is one rail was rusted thru a little further back. Looks like I will have to replace about 8' of rail.
Attachment 311197

About the first 3' of the A-frame has a reinforcement on it made of 2"x4" angle iron. The first buckle happened at the end of this piece.

Does anyone know if it came that way from the factory or was that someone's repair?
Attachment 311198

dbj216 05-17-2018 05:41 PM

We have lift off! You have earned the "full monte" Airstream merit badge. Someday maybe I will too.

The reason you pulled the body off is now very apparent. There is quite a bit of frame repair needed. I wonder how rusted the the frame is and how that may have weakened it. I once had a 64 Alfa Romeo Giulia. The "frame" was so rusty underneath that when I jacked up the front of the car I couldn't open the doors.

So let the frame repairs start... Frame repairs are easier than aluminum body repairs in my view.


steinVT 05-18-2018 03:19 AM

Frame Repair versus Replacement
Given the extent of rust on the frame I decided I needed some expert advice. Luckily Colin Hyde lives just across Lake Champlain from me. He said if you have to replace the front 8 feet and the back 2 feet, what's left? Maybe 10 feet of questionable tubing and it's probably ready to rust thru as well. So it's off to my steel supplier.

A couple of years ago I almost pulled the trigger to build a Locost 7, basically a home built Lotus 7. That involved constructing a chassis from 1" square tubing. Compared to the Lotus project, the Airstream chassis is pretty simple. Basically a ladder. I've been welding since I was 15 (a long time ago) and I have the tools so why not?

I also did one other thing that may be questionable, I joined Tin Can Tourists with the intent of attending a Rally in September. I have always been one that works best with a deadline. Should be a fun summer.:hammer:

Chatthayer 05-18-2018 05:56 AM

Great work and challenging fun!

dbj216 05-18-2018 07:31 PM

I met a fella out here with a Caterham Super Seven in his garage. I haven't seen it yet, but hope to soon. His grocery getter is a 911.

You can rebuild that frame with your welding and fabrication skills. There are threads in these Forums where participants described how they did it. Actually, Airstream crossmembers and outriggers are readily available. I don't know about the axle mounting plate. You may elect to go with "Flex Torque" rubber rod axles. Not original, but a better and easier system.

Should be a fun summer...


safari62 05-21-2018 10:59 AM


Originally Posted by steinVT (Post 2101556)
Safaria62, I like that idea. Just a few more to drill should it have to come off in the future. One thing I didn't understand, did you use a 45 degree counter sink and then install flush rivets or do a partial counter bore to bury the dome rivets some?

Thanks, Mark

Hi Mark
I only have a 45 degree countersink but a partial counter (I assume flat) would work. Except for the two uneven surfaces and starting the sink?

I spaced the rivets about a foot apart, some tighter to compress trim to body.

Colin sent me a pattern for the plate to mount the axle to our 57’ Custom for the conversion from leaf to torsion axles. I have not looked that closely to the condition of that one for awhile, other then I need to replace the front A-frame.

So looking forward to what happens next!

steinVT 05-22-2018 04:03 AM

The Steel has Arrived
1 Attachment(s)
The steel to build the frame arrived yesterday, all $700 worth. Still waiting on the new axle (Thursday) and coupler (today) before I start some serious cutting.

I ordered:
(2) 24' long 2"x4" by 0.125 thick for the main rails
(9) 7' long 2"x4" by 0.125 C-channels
(1) 10' long 2" wide 0.125 bar
(1) 10' long 4" wide 0.125 bar

The C-channels had to be formed from flat stock so that added some to the cost.

Still trying to decide if I want to copy the frame with the narrow A-frame or to Colin's suggestion make it a more modern 50 degree angle. If I go with the later, I could make a spare tire carrier under the front. I just feel structurally the narrow would put less stress at the transition, but it would be nice to have a place for the spare.

Wanting to dust off my stick welding skills, I did put in a taper and sealed off the ends of the main tubes. These will support the rear bumper. Quite a change from what was barely holding it before. The welder I am using I bought when I was 14, almost 50 years ago. Lincoln really knew how to make welders back then.

Attachment 311681

goransons 05-22-2018 07:18 AM

Great work! It sure will be nice to have a new solid frame under there!

dbj216 05-22-2018 07:02 PM

Stick welding? What's that? I can't remember that last time I saw one being used. Kinda like an engine with a carburetor or two. I have a faint memory of those.

However, "stick" welding was the process I learned to weld with. But I didn't do enough of it to develop a proficiency. It takes practice.


steinVT 06-09-2018 05:27 AM

Progress on the Frame
3 Attachment(s)
Progress is being made, all of the metal is cut and tack welded together! Final welding will commence today.

To start I first leveled the original frame in all directions using jack stands and shims. This will be not only be the template but also the welding jig. I decided to go with the more modern 50 degree angle for the A-frame so I would have a space to hide the spare tire. I also didn't like the screwing around required to connect a 40 degree frame into a 50 degree coupler. I decided on a slightly different style coupler than the original stamped steel design. The design of this one is primitive, but seams more secure.

I clamped the new frame rails on to the original and then mocked up the A frame on top of that. I then tied the two beams of the A-frame together with a 4 inch plate sealing their ends. If Airstream had sealed the beams in '56, no water would have gotten in (they were wide open) and I probably wouldn't be going through this exercise.
Attachment 313494

Marking and cutting the angles for the transition from the A-frame to main rails was a pain. They are heavy to move over to the chop saw. Luckily it went well, as a bad cut would have been expensive.

To position the ball, I ran a string bisecting the trailer. I was very concerned about this being exact. Then I checked the original and it was offset at least a half an inch so I was less concerned.
Attachment 313495

Once the A-frame was attached to the main rails, I changed into production mode. Just measure, cut and place. I ended up setting up a jig which made it go quickly.
Attachment 313496

steinVT 06-09-2018 05:50 AM

Outrigger Fabrication
5 Attachment(s)
I somewhat modified the design of the outriggers. I thought it strange that Airstream would leave the thin edges where they could contact the belly pan. Indeed a couple in my original had poked through. It also made it difficult to seal around the wheel wells and steps.

What I did was just leave the material on the bottom flange when cutting the radius and then bend the tab to match. Cutting was done with a saws-all and was not a lot of fun. The 0.125" steel is some pretty tough stuff. I got so I could produce an outrigger in about 10 minutes.
Attachment 313497Attachment 313498
Attachment 313499

Then for the outriggers that surround the wheel wells and the steps, I added a piece of metal to close them completely. This should make it easy to prevent gaps that could be used for an entrance by rodents.
Attachment 313500

After everything was cut, I then tack welded all the pieces together. Today I will flip it upside down and weld all the joints. Flip back right side up and weld the the topside. And then I will rest.......
Attachment 313501

Bubba L 06-09-2018 06:25 AM

Mark,well thought out. I have no idea why Airstream didn’t close the ends of the outriggers. I’ve seen a lot of patches where they creased or poked through the wrap. I made my spare tire rack removable in the event I hit some road kill and have to remove it to straighten pieces. You’ll feel a lot better pulling a chassis that you know is built solid. Good luck, Bubba

dbj216 06-09-2018 07:36 PM

Hi Mark: Gee, that coupler is the same one that is on my flatbed trailer. I like it a lot. It seems more secure than the "sliding shoe" keeper on the usual coupler.

I certainly agree with closing the ends of the A frame channels. I have done so on all three of the Airstreams I've worked on. It is an open house door for mice, and I can imagine water migrates quite a ways down when pulling in a downpour.

You should get in the outrigger business. That is a fancy looking piece. Very well done.

It's going to be a super Safari for sure.


steinVT 06-30-2018 06:11 AM

The Frame work continues
5 Attachment(s)
I have finished up 95% of the welding on the frame. Looks pretty good and seems very strong. I seem to spend a lot of time building fixtures. First the gantries to aide pulling the shell and now a rotisserie to spin the frame. I am an OK welder, but would much rather weld horizontal than vertical or inverted. The rotisserie allows me to do that.

The welds have been turning out good.
Attachment 315528

Here’s one end of the rotisserie, made from more scrape lumber and part of engine stand. I allowed the engine stand to pivot so that I can attach it to the frame at an angle. I use the bucket on my tractor to lift the frame so I can only lift one side at a time.
Attachment 315529

Using the rotating feature of the engine stand then allows me to spin the frame to make any weld horizontal.

The other side was similar except it just had a slot for to accept a steel extension I fabricated to attach to the trailer ball.
Attachment 315530

This is what I used to attach to the frame. The one on the top is part of the engine stand. The bottom one uses a 2” ball and then clamps around the A-frame.
Attachment 315531

Any time I was welding, I always used my tractor as a safety backup. If I were to do this again, (doubtful but never say never), I think I would build the rotisserie out of steel and use something like a truck jack on both ends to raise it up or down.
Attachment 315532


islandtrader 06-30-2018 08:03 AM

Now you know why the second one will be easier ...haha

I just love the put it on take it off...repeat....put it on take it off.:lol:

steinVT 07-12-2018 08:44 PM

Finishing up the Frame
7 Attachment(s)
I continue to work on the chassis, but by the time I'm done for the evening, I'm too tired to post. So this will cover a lot of ground.

Welding is done, now just finishing up the myriad of little design/build tasks that come along with some changes to the design.

To mount the axle I welded 3" angle iron to the main frame rails. The part that was bolted to the axle had an additional 2" plate added. These were 1/4" thick and extended to the rear enough so they can be used as hard points to jack up the trailer.
Attachment 316723

Next we needed to add shock mounts. These were fabricated and welded to the chassis. The originals mounted to a stud welded to the main rail.
Attachment 316721
Attachment 316722

The step was falling out when we got the trailer. Application of a BFH and a bit of welding rod, it now works as good as new. Cleaned up pretty well to.
Attachment 316724

Since I decided to go with the 50 degree coupler angle instead of the 40 degree, I was able to fabricate a hidden spare tire mount under the floor between the rails. Thanks to Colin Hyde for suggesting this.
Attachment 316725
Attachment 316726

You also might have noticed we also managed to paint the chassis. We didn't use POR-15 but instead Eastwood Extreme Chassis Black. I can't tell the difference between the two. It is an extremely tough finish and looks good too.

Next I managed to cut out the flooring. I almost went with pressure treated, but decided I didn't want to add all those chemicals to our semi-sealed space. The original floor that came out was not much of a template although it helped to draw the radii of the corners.
Attachment 316731


HiHoAgRV 07-13-2018 08:03 AM

Now is the perfect time to epoxy coat the ply. I use RAKA, cheaper than West but widely accepted in the wooden boat community.
Great looking work!

dbj216 07-13-2018 07:14 PM

Whew is right! I imagine you do get quite tired.

You've made a lot of progress and now have a new frame for your 56 Airstream. Many Airstreams have a spare tire mounted like you did. It is a great place for it, although it does leave a sizable cavity under the front floor that isn't insulated well. I haven't decided what to do with this spare tire well on my 75 yet.

I wonder if the Eastman coating is easier to apply than POR 15. Did you brush it on or spray, and how did it go?


steinVT 07-15-2018 05:04 AM

David, we put the Eastwood Chassis Black on with a brush. It went on very thin, a quart almost did the whole chassis. I bought a second quart which I am using to apply second coat and maybe a third where it will contact the belly pan.

Regarding the tire well, my plan is to build a aluminum box to protect the floor and frame from the elements and there should be enough room to have a layer of Prodex insulation under the floor.

Regarding insulating the rest of the floor, I think I am going to back to my original thought and glue and screw 1" foam directly to the plywood. 2" foam seems like overkill with all of that single pane glass and aluminum ribs creating a direct conduction path. Anyone think that's a bad idea?

HiHoAgRV, I thought about epoxy, but ended up using Olympic WaterGuard, Clear Waterproofer. I liked the way it soaked into the plywood and the way water just beads up on the surface. I plan on dribbling more WaterGuard on all the penetrations for the elevator bolts and edge bolts. I think that may be the principle path for water to get into the plies.

For the flooring we are planning on putting down Marmoleum sheet goods.

After the floor is secured and leveled, what would you guys think about laying the Marmoleaum so it even was under the C-channel? Seems like it would be a great barrier to water and would be so easy to install.


steinVT 07-15-2018 05:45 AM

Fender Wells
3 Attachment(s)
Another project that was kind of a PIA, but now is done was repairing the outer fender wells. They were in pretty good shape except the side pieces that attach to the outriggers were 90% gone. I also didn't like the way the inboard attachment was to the plywood with wood screws.
Attachment 316978

What I did was to cut off the rust, paint everything with silver Rustoleum, add a galvanized section to extend the fender about an inch beyond the top of the outrigger and add a piece of 3/4" galvanized angle iron to be bolted to the outrigger. I used stainless steel rivets and bucked all the pieces together and then sprayed the interior with truck bed liner. Should be good for another 60 years or so.
Attachment 316975
Attachment 316976

I also welded a one inch plate to the frame for the inboard rail to rest on which will use bolts and locking nuts instead of screws.

dbj216 07-17-2018 06:54 PM

1 Attachment(s)
I have used foam board for under subfloor insulation on the 86 and the 66. It does not absorb moisture and is pretty good insulation. I did use 4" in the 86 and 2" in the 66. It does cost more, and takes considerably more time to install than the fiberglass insulation. Worth it to me as it gets dang cold in Minnesota.

I do think I will use the fiberglass insulation in my 75 project because we now live in Colorado where moisture isn't an issue really and the temps are more moderate. And my trailers are stored inside out of the weather.


HiHoAgRV 07-17-2018 06:59 PM

I have used 1" foam in the belly and spaced it 1" off the floor to prevent water from ever touching the wood. I also taped every seam so I also got the insulating factor of an air gap. Dunno if it makes any difference but it was the way I wanted to do it.

islandtrader 07-18-2018 06:20 AM

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Originally Posted by HiHoAgRV (Post 2130146)
I have used 1" foam in the belly and spaced it 1" off the floor to prevent water from ever touching the wood. I also taped every seam so I also got the insulating factor of an air gap. Dunno if it makes any difference but it was the way I wanted to do it.

I guess we are all on the same mind set...:lol:

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steinVT 07-18-2018 07:32 PM


Originally Posted by HiHoAgRV (Post 2130146)
I have used 1" foam in the belly and spaced it 1" off the floor to prevent water from ever touching the wood.

I like the idea of a space. How did you hold it in place? I was thinking construction adhesive and a couple of fender washers and wood screws. Also, what type of tape did you use? Thanks.

I guess great minds think alike.

HiHoAgRV 07-19-2018 09:22 AM

Our yet to be named, '56 Safari
I cut foam into 2" wide strips for the spacers. Starting off with adhesive (that quickly failed) I switched to spot taping it into place. Then I used fender washers and wood screws thru the foam and (foam) spacers. Sealing was done with aluminum duct tape, the kind you peel off the back to expose the most tenacious adhesive known to mankind.
Then only places I attached foam directly to the wood was in the corners. The '50's and '60's trailers don't have much space between the belly pan and the floor in those spots.

steinVT 08-09-2018 08:06 PM

Frame Status
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Once again I have been negligent in posting my progress. Luckily my job is somewhat flexible so I have been able to apply some hours.

As of right now, all of the welding is done, the floor and insulation installed, C-channel installed and two thirds of the belly pans installed. Hoping to finish up the belly pan tomorrow, flip it and reconnect the shell next week.

Like any project, it really is just a collection of smaller projects. So here are some of those projects (for the record)

Added fish scales to both sides of the two butt joints in the frame. I was worried about these joints, but not any more.
Attachment 319421

I ran the trailer brake wires thru rubber grommets in holes drilled in the cross frame members. Liked the idea of using an extension cord for raw material. Fairly cheap and with a new end, the left over cord works just fine. The connections are at the wheel and not buried in the frame.
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Here is some of the router work I used to provide clearance around the fender wells.
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This is a piece of aluminum used to close off the floor from the steps cavity
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All of the elevator bolts were double nutted with the final nut installed with blue locktite.
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Here is an aluminum box I built to seal off the spare tire compartment from the rest of the under body.
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I was able to reuse about half of the C-channel. The rest I had fabricated by the guys I buy my aluminum from. Hard to beat an 8' shear and 8' brake. I think it was about $50 for 24 feet. The yellow under the bolt heads is mil-surplus zinc-chromate primer. This should prevent or at least slow the galvanic corrosion. Not sure who's beer that was.:innocent:
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So I used everyone's ideas regarding insulation. I ended up with an inch air gap and then two inches of foam board. I used 1" pink foam to act as a spacers and to seal the outer edges. Held it all together with construction adhesive and fender washers and wood screws. The corners were just the 1" pink board. It took only three sheets of the 2" foam and half a sheet of the 1".
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Bubba L 08-09-2018 08:40 PM

Mark, everything is well thought out and really looking good. I wish I would have layed the Marmoleum out on the chassis and cut to fit before I dropped the shell. Rolling and unrolling over the wheel wells to check the fit from the pattern was a pain. Also, Marmoleum has a tendency to kink when I rolled over objects. Kinks tend to create a crack in the Marmoleum surface. Just a thought. Good luck and keep up the good work. Bubba

steinVT 08-10-2018 04:09 AM

Marmoleum Template
Bubba, I bought a roll of construction paper, the stuff contractors roll out to protect the floor when working. It has come in very handy when making full size templates for the belly pan. I plan to make a full size template of the floor as soon as I flip it over.

I had even briefly thought about installing the marmoleum to the floor even before the C channel went on, but then decided there was no way to really protect it for the rest of the process. Seemed like a good way to completely seal the top surface.

OTRA15 08-10-2018 04:26 AM

Sorry if an earlier post answers this, but is the floor standard plywood like AC? Wondering if you waterproofed the ply incl butt joints before assembly?



islandtrader 08-10-2018 07:28 AM

Nice Job...
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Looking good...I wish I would of thought of the closing off the steps like you did.

I did my closing off after the fact..and yours is much cleaner. But hey it is done...:lol:

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Mollysdad 08-10-2018 08:25 AM

Wow! That's craftsmanship! Anybody would be proud to own that!

A minor comment on your spare tire storage. Did you see the post where someone discovered that a blown tire and rim could slip out of the Airstream hanger? It did horrible to damage to the underside.
Yours may be safe, I can't tell if a empty rim could get out.

steinVT 08-11-2018 03:40 AM


Originally Posted by Mollysdad (Post 2140990)
Wow! That's craftsmanship! Anybody would be proud to own that!

A minor comment on your spare tire storage. Did you see the post where someone discovered that a blown tire and rim could slip out of the Airstream hanger? It did horrible to damage to the underside.
Yours may be safe, I can't tell if a empty rim could get out.

Thanks for the kind words.

I have not seen that post. I can see that it would make a hell of a mess. The clearances are such that if the tire is at least on the rim, I don't think it could get out. But I will check.


steinVT 08-11-2018 03:54 AM


Originally Posted by OTRA15 (Post 2140930)
Sorry if an earlier post answers this, but is the floor standard plywood like AC? Wondering if you waterproofed the ply incl butt joints before assembly?



Hi Peter. It is standard AC plywood. I came close to buying treated, but decided I didn't want to introduce all of those chemicals into such a closed environment. Of course then we treated it with chemicals.:huh:

We first put on a couple of coats of Olympic Water Proofer with special attention to the edges. We then supplemented that with a coat of clear polyurethane.

We did cover the complete sheets and not just the outer 6 inches, mainly to protect it during construction. Any water that has gotten under the tarp I have it covered with just beads up. We will be covering it with Marmoleum which will make it water proof from the top.

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